As a parent I’ve always thought it’s important to monitor what TV and movies my child watches and the video games she plays. There are so many violent images and inappropriate messages in them. At the same time I want to value and respect her freedom. I’ve always tried to balance freedom and protecting her mind. The two are not always compatible!
I did my best to keep my daughter from violent and sexual images when she was young.
But because of my dislike for rules we never made it one!
Rules restrict freedom and inhibit independent thinking.
Explain the Rationale
What I did was to explain to her that my job as her dad was to guide and protect her consciousness so that she doesn’t grow up with the problems that most adults suffer with.
I tried using analogies to explain such as:
Just like learning to dance or do martial arts, before we can leap and fly we must condition the body and keep it healthy. If we don’t do the right exercises we won’t be able to enjoy doing the things we want to. In the same way we must train our minds. If our minds get out of shape we won’t be able to do all the things we want with them.
Or just like eating different foods affects the body in different ways, so too what we watch affects our minds and hearts in different ways. Good food makes us healthy! Putting good images into our minds keeps our minds healthy.
It’s Not a Rule, It’s a Suggestion
I didn’t say she couldn’t watch certain things. I suggested to her to trust my guidance about what to watch and what not to watch.
Of course because I generally say yes to pretty much everything she ever asks for, she knows when I suggest a “no” there is a really good reason behind it. My policy has always been 10 yesses for every no, but I never reach anywhere near that ratio. I really don’t like to say no and I don’t see much use in it!
I’m much happier to get a buy in from her to whatever idea I find important.
So combining the trust she feels for me
with the explanation of why I’m suggesting avoiding certain things,
my daughter was very happy to not watch certain movies or play certain games.
But All My Friends Are Watching It!
But there came a day when her friends were talking about a certain show or a certain game, and she just wanted to be part of the conversation. I knew this day would come and I was prepared for it. When it came I told her that I understood and respected her desire to be part of the group.
Then we talked about peer pressure and how there are some things that are okay to do to be part of the group and there are some things that aren’t.
I wanted her to know that I value her and her unique personality so very much. I told her the things that she likes, the things that make her happy are so wonderful that she should always honour them. And the things that make her feel uncomfortable she should honour as well.
I let her know that I trusted her ability to know which was which. When she actually wanted to play a violent video game or watch a mature show or movie, she had my support. The trust I showed her by saying this meant a lot to her.
Carrying the Skill Into the Rest of Her Life
Even now that she’s 18 she will evaluate every game, movie or show to see if the enjoyment she will receive is worth the effect it will have on her mind and heart. She has learned an important decision making skill, to balance cost vs gain. This skill was imparted to her when she was young and now she will carry it with her the rest of her life.
I personally value the teaching of the skill as the most important part of all this.
This kind of skill can only be really integrated in an atmosphere of freedom.
The freedom to make choices, with my guidance, and receive support for those choices.
Many of my parenting decisions come from thinking of long term skills. This means sometimes I have to sacrifice short term desires (my desires!) in order to help her develop something deeper. The skill of her trusting her own intuition about what is good for her to watch is so precious to me.
Collaboration is a Powerful Way to Teach Deep Skills
My tendency is always to shy away from saying no
and instead utilizing discussion and collaboration to make the decision.
Collaboration means that I clearly state my opinion
That comes from loving her and wanting the best for her
But not controlling the decision
And making sure she doesn’t feel judged if what she decides is different from my suggestion.
It is important for our children to feel we are totally supportive of their decisions.
More than supportive, to actually celebrate the fact that they are listening to their own hearts,
following their own feelings and trusting themselves.